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26 March 2009

Faculty Senate beat notebook: March 26

INCOMING CLASS MAINTAINS STANDARDS
  • A recommendation was passed by the Faculty Senate that asks for Provost Thomas LeBlanc to thank the Vice-President for Student Enrollment for “maintaining the quality of the incoming student body and to continue to do so even in the face of less than agreeable economic outlooks.” Dr. Fred Frohock, professor and Chair of the Political Science Department, presented the Academic Standards Committee Undergraduate Admissions Report, which described the quality of the 2008 freshman class. According to the report, the caliber of students accepted has not decreased in light of the worsening economic conditions. While some worried that the quality of students accepted would suffer in order to accept more students, the administration has continued to declare that maintaining its academic standards still remains its top priority.
    According to Provost LeBlanc, the University has prepared a budget based on very conservative estimates of class enrollment for the 2009-2010 school year because total financial registration data will not be available until mid-October.
    “Think about it – people don’t want to buy cars in this economy and we’re asking them to buy 4 cars,” said LeBlanc referring to the rising costs of higher education.
    However, according to the Provost, applications for the next school year have remained constant: early decisions were consistent with last year’s numbers, early action applications actually increased and the total number of applications was relatively the same as in the previous year. Furthermore, LeBlanc noted the popularity of university tours.
    Three steps have been put in place to guard the university against the unknown variable of student enrollment: first, more students were accepted this year; second, a larger waiting list was developed; and third, the university has begin to search for more financial aid options to increase retention and attraction of new students.

SEARCH FOR LAW AND RSMAS DEANS IN ‘FINAL STAGES’

  • According to President Shalala’s remarks to the Faculty Senate, negotiations to hire two new deans—one for the Law School and one for the Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science—are well underway and in the final stages of completion. Neither positions will require extended amounts of negotiations in order to be finalized. While no candidates have been hired yet, the President reassured the Faculty Senate that the finalists have been agreed on by a general consensus. Approval for salary levels were also expedited by the Board of Trustees at the President’s request. President Shalala also added that the candidates that are ultimately hired will be on board before July 1st. Press releases announcing the new Deans are expected to be released sometime next week.
    Similarly, the University has been working on retaining those Deans who have been offered positions in other colleges by offering retention packages. The President anticipates this to be an effective move due largely to the speed of response with which they have made the counteroffers.
    “We’ve hired such good people that others have gone after them. When you hire people at a certain level, you have to live with the fact that they will be offered promotions at other places,” said Shalala.

UNIVERSITY REFOCUSES ADVERTISING TARGETS

  • As part of the university’s cost containment policies, advertising for the university has seen cuts throughout the past year. This downsizing has forced the university to look for alternate ways of promoting the university. According to President Shalala, a new public relations strategy named UCares is at the forefront of this restructuring. UCares, which will be mostly broadcast through radio, capitalizes on the University’s positive impact on the community. It advertises the effect of faculty in the community, student volunteering and the Child Advocacy program at the School of Law among many. Another part of the strategy is relying on the university’s constant positive mentions in all types of media to continue to advance the positive image of the university.

SHALALA SEEKS TO BALANCE BUDGET

  • President Shalala continued to address the university’s current financial situation by restating the administration’s continued emphasis on balancing the budget for next year as well as looking for surpluses wherever possible. Shalala noted that the administration’s priority is to “keep the institution moving forward” while also keeping a positive attitude. The university has also been working to strike a balance between the announcements of all the new cuts and cost-containment policies and reassuring employees and the general community that university is not facing bankruptcy.
    For the past year, the administration has assumed a conservative stance, striving to keep expenditures in line with revenue while dealing with a decrease in gifts. According to President Shalala, despite having received various 1-million dollar gifts, the university’s fundraising efforts are down 40%, a trend which affects the Miller School of Medicine most keenly.
    Shalala also added that the only new hires currently being considered are those using “soft money,” which she defined as money coming in from grants that go towards research. This presents an opportunity for undergraduate senior students to be hired for research assistant positions.

FACULTY SENATE REMEMBERS MARK BEERS

  • The Faculty Senate held a minute of silent in honor of Mark Beers, 54, Professor of Clinical Medicine, Gerontology and Geriatric Medicine, who passed away February 28 from diabetes, a condition he had been suffering since the age of nine. A faculty member at the University of Miami Miller School of medicine, colleagues remembered him as a highly regarded researcher and a “very likeable guy,” according to Faculty Senate Chairman Stephen Sapp. According to a death notice in The Miami Herald, Beers joined the university community in 2007 after 15 years in the medical publishing branch of Merck Pharmaceuticals. In 1990, he wrote the Merck Manual of Geriatrics, which the company still regards as the highest-selling geriatric medicine textbooks. Beers also enjoyed ballet-dancing, the opera, hiking the Alps and rowing. Beers is survived by his life partner Stephen Urice, his mother Linda and his sister, Jacqueline.